edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 5/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Auldbrass: Frank Lloyd Wright's Southern Plantation
by David G. De Long
New York: Rizzoli International Publications, $45
276 pages, 203 illustrations
Among Frank Lloyd Wright's 1,000-plus building designs, one of the most complex, idiosyncratic, and least known—until now—is Auldbrass, a plantation between Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. This idyllic 4,000-acre low-country estate of fields, ponds, swampland, and moss-hung live oaks is dotted with Wright structures: the main house, guest and staff quarters, stables, kennels, a barn, a laundry, workshops, and more. Wright started the project in 1938 and continued to add buildings as well as cabinetry and furniture until his death in 1959.
This ensemble represents the achievement of two larger-than-life characters, not only Wright but also his client Charles Leigh Stevens. An innovative industrialist, he died in 1962, but his daughter and her husband remained faithful stewards of the property for another 17 years, securing a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
A timber company bought Auldbrass in 1979, then sold it to a group of local hunters for use as a lodge. Gradually, decay and disrepair set in—halted only by a 1986 purchase by film producer Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Matrix). Silver rescued the complex with the help of Wright's architect grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright.
David G. De Long—an architecture, city-planning, and preservation expert who has authored definitive books on Bruce Goff and Louis Kahn—gives us a thoroughly researched, beautifully written account of the plantation's genesis and history, presenting the difficulties as well as the triumphs. The former include "problems in positioning the buildings brought about by Wright's lack of familiarity with the site, a surprising oversight in a career so dedicated to excelling in just such efforts." De Long also explores the complexity of the angular plans, further complicated by the inward slope of the walls. (When construction was nearing completion, a Charleston newspaper called Auldbrass an "angled crazy house.") And he reports on the occasional extravagance of Wright's specifications, such as the hard-to-find foot-wide cypress boards, applied diagonally.
Generally, however, this book is a positive and much overdue record of a unique and highly charismatic architectural accomplishment. Better yet, the volume features beautiful and atmospheric color photographs, a generous number of plans, extensive notes, and—too rare these days—an index.
Modern Glamour: The Art of Unexpected Style
by Kelly Wearstler
New York: Regan Books, $40
282 pages, 200 color illustrations
Glamour can be elusive. Kelly Wearstler makes it tangible.
Since she burst onto the scene with high-profile hospitality and fashion interiors, her exuberant multilayered style has continued to dazzle with color, pattern, texture, valuable objects, and flea-market finds. Her work is like nothing else. Though not Modern, it's certainly modern.
In this monograph, projects such as the Viceroy Santa Monica and Maison 140 hotels, a private yacht, a Trina Turk boutique, and enviable Southern California residences—including her own—are organized into thematic chapters. (Graphics, architecture and landscape, color and texture, stimuli, stagecraft.) Charming sketches add immediacy. So does the text, written with Jane Bogart. It's chatty yet informative, much like a one-on-one conversation offering insights into Wearstler's thinking and processes.
The camera admires the designer as much as her projects. Captured in the studio, at showrooms, on the job site, and shopping in exotic locales, she's equally alluring in jeans or a strapless black gown improbably worn with scarlet boots. Anyone aspiring to her unanticipated glamour should consult the book's three-page resource listing, annotated with personal comments.
What They're Reading...
Principal of her namesake architecture firm and a member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame
by Jan Mergl and Lenka Pánková
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic: Moser, $75
This book chronicles the commercial and artistic development of the Moser glass factory, which produced fine drinking glasses and colored cut glass as well as industrial glass products in the Czech city once known as Carlsbad. "Gorgeous photographs reflect the European design trends of the late 19th century through today. This is one of those musts for designers' libraries," says Leff, who discovered it at the Neue Galerie New York.